Kim Jong-un unexpectedly extends visit to Russia as he gleefully tours more weapons facilities

Putin earlier gifted a spacesuit ‘that had been in space several times’ and Russian-made rifle to North Korean dictator

Shweta Sharma
Friday 15 September 2023 11:09
Kim Jong-un tours aviation plant in Russia's Far East during arms deal visit

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un has extended his trip to Russia for an undisclosed period of time as he continues to be taken on tours of the facilities feeding Vladimir Putin’s war machine.

The hermit kingdom’s ruler is on his first excursion outside of North Korea since before the Covid pandemic, and appeared to revel in the opportunity to see aerial demonstrations of Russia Su-35 fighter jets on Friday, as well as getting a peek inside a cockpit.

Mr Kim left North Korea on Monday and had been expected to head home after talks with Mr Putin, with the two isolated leaders agreeing deals to prop up each other’s authoritarian regime.

But Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov announced Mr Kim had unexpectedly decided to extend his trip by “a few more days”, and on Friday toured two aviation factories in the far eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur.

Mr Kim began his trip with a visit to a Russian cosmodrome, where Mr Putin agreed to help develop North Korea’s UN-sanctioned satellite launch programme. Analysts expect North Korea agreed to supply weapons for Russia to use in its war against Ukraine in exchange, although nothing has been formally announced on this front.

On Friday the North Korean leader visited the vast Yuri Gagarin Aviation Plant and the Yakovlev Plant, both of which have been sanctioned by the West after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Mr Kim’s luxurious and heavily-armoured train stopped at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur railway station and a huge cavalcade of vehicles thought to be driving Mr Kim rolled on to the streets with traffic movement entirely halted.

Beaming with excitement and clapping his hands after the flypast of a fighter jet, Mr Kim undertook a detailed inspection of the plants at Russia’s leading aircraft production facilities.

The North Korean leader received a red carpet welcome and was escorted by deputy prime minister Denis Manturov and other senior regional ministers.

He also inspected the assembly plant where the Sukhoi Su-35 multirole fighter and the Su-57 fighter jets are made.

People look at the motorcade of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un driving to the railway station prior to his departure from Komsomolsk-on-Amur

Mr Kim was photographed peeking into the cockpit of Russia’s most advanced fighter jet, while being visibly overjoyed and applauding after witnessing the test flight demonstration of the Su-35.

“Kim Jong-un and Denis Manturov inspected the fighter aircraft assembly plant and the final assembly shop of the Su-35 aircraft and the fifth-generation Su-57 aviation complex,” the Russian government said.

“The delegation also inspected the technological capabilities of the plant, which has been modernised and re-equipped – the machining production and a workshop of special coatings,” it said.

Mr Manturov said Moscow is willing to cooperate with North Korea in a number of areas of aviation, including aircraft manufacturing.

“We have shown the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea one of our leading aircraft production facilities. We see the potential for cooperation both in aircraft construction and in other industries – this is especially important for the fulfilment of the tasks our countries face to achieve technological sovereignty,” Mr Manturov said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, center, listens to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade and Industry Denis Manturov, center left, while visiting a Russian aircraft plant that builds fighter jet

He also inspected the workshops where the fuselage compartments and wing assemblies of Russia’s Sukhoi Superjet 100 are carried out.

The visit has been closely watched by the US, and the West’s regional allies have expressed deep concern about how revived Russia-North Korea ties could bolster Mr Putin’s war machine in Ukraine.

The deeply secretive North Korean government did not announce a detailed itinerary of Mr Kim’s visit to Russia and it was unclear what exactly Mr Kim and Mr Putin were meeting to talk about – or indeed whether they would definitely meet –?until the last minute.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, accompanied by Governor of Russia's Khabarovsk Region Mikhail Degtyarev and other officials

Kremlin spokesperson Mr Peskov said the North Korean leader’s visit “will continue for a few more days” in Russia, without confirming how many days he planned to stay on.

Meeting before their long talks and formal lunch, Mr Putin gave a spacesuit “that had been in space several times” and a Russian-made rifle to Mr Kim as a present. Mr Kim also presented the gift of a North Korean made gun to Mr Putin.

“Kim invited (Russian President Vladimir) Putin to pay a visit to (North Korea). Putin gratefully accepted the invitation,” Mr Peskov had said after North Korean state media confirmed the invitation.

Mr Kim is to travel next to Vladivostok to visit Russia’s Pacific fleet, a university and other facilities, Mr Putin told Russian media before returning to the Kremlin on Wednesday.

Kim Jong-un leaving the Vostochny cosmodrome outside the city of Tsiolkovsky

The US and the allies have warned North Korea would “pay a clear price” if they go ahead with an arms deal with Russia and expressed “serious concerns” about prospective weapons deals.

The White House said the three national security advisers noted that any arms export to Russia from Pyongyang would directly violate the multiple UN sanctions on the East Asian country.

It would include a resolution against nuclear weapon use that Russia, a permanent chair at the UN council, had itself adopted.

Mr Peskov said Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov is expected to visit North Korea in October, but did not elaborate on Mr Putin’s plans.

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